Moore and Franken Must Step Aside

Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.)

Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.)

In the court of public opinion, the people are entitled to determine how much evidence they require to decide whether a party is guilty or innocent. The responsibility falls to each individual to make up their mind. While I respect the intentions of people that require a lower burden of proof, especially in cases of sexual assault, it is important for those people to understand that not everyone will draw the same conclusions as quickly. I’ve seen people attacked for prefacing “Roy Moore should suspend his campaign” with statements like “if the allegations are true”. Those who attack these sentiments believe his accusers should be taken at their word, and that any hesitation to fully accept an accuser’s story is an attack on the accuser herself. People who take this view are important because without them, many women may not have the courage to come forward. I would hope, however, that those who espouse this view would also respect people that need more evidence before drawing a conclusion.

I say all of this because it is my opinion that Al Franken and Roy Moore are guilty of what they are accused. In Franken’s case, I view his apology, qualified as it may be, as an admission of guilt. In the case of Moore, the fact that there are multiple accounts of his alleged actions, and that there are no clear political motivations (at least one of his accusers voted for Trump and would therefore be more likely to support Moore’s policies than those of Doug Jones) for these allegations is more than enough to convince me of Moore’s guilt. The rest of this piece operates from the perspective that both men are guilty, but as long as there are no ulterior motives (such as keeping your preferred political party in control of Congress), I do not malign anyone who requires more evidence before drawing a conclusion. Irrefutable evidence has not been presented in either case. I can appreciate that some people will need to wait for more facts to emerge before delivering an opinion on how we should handle these situations. But if you will indulge my setting aside of due process, here’s the world according to Peikes.

First of all, sexual assault does not have a political affiliation. This seems like an obvious statement, but I still find it unsettling. I wish that I could feel confident that it is confined to people like Roy Moore, whose policy positions (such as banning Muslims from serving in Congress) are as despicable as a 32-year-old man “dating” a 14-year-old girl. But it clearly just isn’t true. The underlying theme in recent headlines is that many men in positions of power seem to wield that power by taking advantage of the women around them.

Al Franken has been a hero of mine for a long time. Watching him grill Betsy Devos in her nomination hearing was inspiring. It was one of the most iconic moments of Democrats fighting back against Trump’s attempt to hand the key functions of our government over to self-serving millionaires and billionaires. I wish that I could separate the man’s actions from his heroics as a senator. That is the stance I have taken for a long time: that I can admire a man’s policies without looking up to him as a man (i.e, Bill Clinton). When Franken forced himself on Leeann Tweeden, they were preparing a skit for a USO show, an admirable act. I wish I could say, “Well, it’s not okay what he did, but I admire that he took the time to go out and entertain our troops.” But there is an inherent flaw in this thought process. Tweeden was traumatized in the process of Franken preparing for this event. Perhaps female staffers preparing him for the Devos hearing dealt with something similar. I can’t look up to him for his actions if, in the process of taking those actions, people’s lives were forever changed. I’m not willing to make that sacrifice. Nobody should be willing to make that sacrifice.

Of course, sexual assault is not confined to senators and representatives. We see it on college campuses, in workplaces, everywhere. Fortunately, when our elected officials do it, we have more power to hold them accountable. And we must hold them accountable.

Roy Moore should suspend his campaign. Al Franken should resign. The longer we allow men to perform heinous acts and get away with a slap on the wrist, the less willing to come forward women are likely to be. Men will then feel more emboldened to continue this behavior and a vicious cycle will ensue. Start really impacting attackers’ lives. Take away their jobs. Relative to how they have changed their victims’ lives, Moore and Franken will still be getting off easy. But if we establish a culture where powerful men consistently fall from their pedestals for assaulting women, maybe men everywhere will finally realize there are serious consequences for these actions. And maybe women will get to feel a little bit safer on college campuses. In workplaces. Everywhere.


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Ethan PeikesComment